Filly Superstar Almond Eye Takes Japan Cup In Record Time

Getting a perfect trip under jockey Christophe Lemaire, Japanese filly Triple Crown winner Almond Eye dominated her male rivals in the 38th Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday, winning the Group 1 race in record-setting time of 2:20.60 for a mile and one-half on firm turf.

Pacesetter Kiseki finished second, 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner, with Suave Richard third in the field of 14, another 3 1/2 lengths back.

There were only two international runners in the field – the second time only two invited horses contested the race (the other year was 2006) – and neither was a factor. Thundering Blue, the G2 York Stakes winner and G1 Canadian International runner-up, finished 10th for trainer David Menuisier. Aidan O’Brien Capri, the 2017 winner of the G1 Irish Derby and G1 St. Leger, finished 11th.

Trained by Sakae Kunieda, Almond Eye races for Silk Racing Co., Ltd. She is a 3-year-old filly by Japanese sprint champion Lord Kanaloa (by the Kingmambo sire King Kamehameha) out of Japanese Group 1 winner Fusaichi Pandora, a daughter of American Horse of the Year Sunday Silence. Almond Eye was bred by Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Racing.

Almond Eye became the second 3-year-old filly to capture the Japan Cup following 2012 winner Gentildonna – a two-time Horse of the Year in Japan – and seventh 3-year-old to beat older rivals in the race.

The win was the second Japan Cup triumph from 14 tries for Lemaire, currently the leading jockey in Japan with 193 victories going into the Nov. 24-25 weekend, a winning clip of 27 percent that put him 55 wins ahead of his nearest rival, Mirco Demuro.

Almond Eye has now won seven of eight starts, her only defeat coming in her career debut when second of 17 runners in Niigata in August 2017. She won a maiden race in October, then was freshened for a 3-year-old campaign that began with a win over colts in the G3 Shinzan Kinen at Kyoto on Jan. 8. She then swept the fillies Triple Crown G1 races, taking the April 8 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) at Hanshin, the May 20 Yushin Himba (Japanese Oaks) at Tokyo and the Oct. 14 Shuka Sho at Kyoto. The Japanese Oaks, like the Japan Cup, is run over 2,400 meters, or 1 1/2 miles. French rider Lemaire, 39, has been aboard for all of her starts except for the Shinzan Kinen.

The Japan Cup result never seemed in doubt as Almond Eye was perfectly placed along the inside after breaking from the No. 1 post position, directly behind Kiseki and running easily throughout. Kiseki was on an uncontested lead from the outset, opening up several lengths down the backstretch and around the final bend. Almond Eye swung out at the top of the long Tokyo Racecourse stretch, seized command from Kiseki with a furlong remaining and drew off under moderate urging.

Almond Eye’s closing fractions were 45.80 seconds for the final half-mile and :34.40 for the final three furlongs. Her final time was nearly two seconds faster than the American record for 1 1/2 miles on turf, set by Twilight Eclipse at Gulfstream Park. The previous Tokyo course record was 2:22.10.

The Japan Cup attracted a crowd of 98,988, down nearly 9 percent from 2017. Wagering on the Japan Cup was 20.5 billion yen (approximately $181.2 million), a decline of 7.7 percent from 2017.

Purse for the Japan Cup was $5.9 million, with $2.7 million going to the winner.

The post Filly Superstar Almond Eye Takes Japan Cup In Record Time appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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